Oh, the places you'll go! 2016 in review

January: the year began in New Zealand, for a South Island Road trip, followed by the Sauvignon Blanc celebration. We started off in Central Otago, where it was unseasonably cold. Rippon is pictured above.

North Canterbury provided some highlights. including Pyramid Valley (above) and Bell Hill (below).

February saw the Professional Wine Writers’ Symposium in Napa, California. [...]

The ill-health of wine writing

It’s not been a great year for wine writing. Several fellow writers have lost their newspaper columns and regular gigs. It has been particularly tough for those who rely solely on writing for their living; for many like me who have had quite a good year, it has been the lecturing, judging, consulting, presenting and [...]

On being ill

I’m currently ill. This is unusual for me: I can’t remember the last time.

Of course, I haven’t seen a doctor. I’m male and British, and we tend not to visit doctors unless we are clearly dying. I’m not dying [I think, and hope]. I have a really bad chest and I’m coughing a lot, and [...]

In Madeira with Blandy's

I’m in Madeira. It’s my first time on the island. It’s quite a beautiful place.

Funchal

Tasting at Blandy’s wine lodge

The reason? To find out about Madeira wine, with the island’s largest producer, Blandy’s. Day one consisted of a tasting through the current commercially available range of wines, followed by a drive around the island [...]

Co-chairing at the International Wine Challenge Tranche 1

This week I have been judging in Tranche 1 of the 2017 version of the international Wine Challenge (IWC). After eight years as a panel chair, I’m now a co-chair along with Tim Atkin, Peter McCombie, Oz Clarke and Charles Metcalfe, and also new this year, Sarah Abbott.

Over recent years, some panel chairs have taken [...]

Some good value wines that impress

I’m aware that many of the wines I recommend here are quite expensive. So these are some wines that I’ve tried recently that represent excellent value for money. These are real stand-outs.

Château de Lascaux ‘Carra’ Pic St Loup, Languedoc, France
£13.99 Vintage Roots
14% alcohol
Organic. Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Really fresh and well defined with lovely bright [...]

On flying

Flew back from Vancouver on Saturday night. The plane in the top left picture above is the ancient BA 747-400 that we were flying on, getting ready for boarding. The plane was creaking at the seams a bit: it had to abandon taxiing and return to the stand to have its electrics looked at. We [...]

Brand familiarity, quality and the mac and cheese metaphor

Yesterday’s Kayra tasting raised an interesting question.

In 2006, winemaker Daniel O’Donnell finds himself in charge of one of Turkey’s most popular wine brands, Buzbag. As a winemaker, surely it’s his job to make this wine ‘better’. He says that hygiene standards weren’t the highest, and the wine comes from Eastern Turkey, where for religious reasons, [...]

You don't have to be the best: you just have to be famous

In a field like athletics, the recipe to success is clear: be the best. Being the best is quantifiable. If you run faster, throw harder or jump higher, no one can dispute that you deserve your position at the top.

When it comes to other fields, often it is trickier to quantify performance.

Take wine writing, as [...]

Responding to a reader's comment on excessive travel and narrow scoring

I had an interesting comment on my blog a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling it over. If anyone takes the trouble to comment at length like this, and offer opinions, then I should be listening. And I am. Here it is:

Dear Jamie
I have been mulling over this for a while… but I think [...]